We can’t escape the warning signs. Temperatures are climbing. The world’s ice caps are melting. More and more animals are projected to go extinct soon. We’re running out of time to resolve the climate change problem. 

Recent research, however, shows that there is some hope to reduce climate change and restore the function of ecosystems around the world. The answer lies in planting trees. By planting trees on 0.9 billion hectares of land, we can trap roughly two-thirds the amount of carbon caused by humans since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Although this is not a permanent solution, it is enough to make a significant, tangible difference to our atmosphere. The action will also buy us more time as we continue to develop solutions to global warming. And yes, there is plenty of room to plant these trees! Even without bulldozing farmlands, natural grasslands, and cities, we can still add enough trees to cover an area roughly the size of the United States. 

The key is to plant trees that are native to our regions. Native plants help ensure sustainability by improving the soil, increasing pollinator populations, and providing a home for birds, insects, and other wildlife. Trees and plants won’t only help trap carbon, but will also reduce the species extinction crisis.

One of the great things about planting trees to trap carbon is that it is certainly possible. If seven billion of the world’s people planted even just one native plant a month, the world would see 84 new billion plants each year. Twelve years later, we would reach a trillion new native plants! Many of the previously-planted plants will also have reproduced during that time, making an additional trillion plants a strong possibility. To make this possible, however, we need to get started right away. If not, the planet’s climate will change drastically enough to reduce the places where trees can grow by 223 million hectares. 

Why not look into planting trees today? Check online or with your local government. Some cities or programs offer free trees. Many times, all you have to do is commit to watering the new tree. If you’re not in a place to get a tree, volunteer your time at a tree planting event. 

We’ve been taking from our planet for centuries. Humans are at fault for the current state of the world. It’s time to start returning life to the earth in a display of grace and gratitude. After all, our future depends on how we treat the planet. We need to act quickly, and planting native trees may be our best chance at turning things around.